There’s nothing I like more than saving money. So, when I realized my frugal habits were also helping preserve our beautiful planet, I felt even more victorious.
You see, adopting an eco-friendly lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to spend more money. This is a common misconception for consumers. In fact, a 2015 survey from RetailMeNot found more than 81 percent of shoppers think environmentally-friendly items are more expensive than products that aren’t green. Sure, chemical-free household cleaners cost more than traditional options, and adding solar panels to your home will run thousands of dollars, but there are many more cost-effective methods for being kind to Mother Nature.
Click to read more about how to make your own eco- (and wallet) friendly terrarium.
Here are five ways I found going green saves more green in my wallet.
Eliminate Food Waste
An estimated 40 percent of food gets tossed into the trash every year, according to the National Resources Defense Council. Not only is this bad for our planet, it’s bad for our wallets. Even as a savvy grocery shopper, I hate to admit that I found myself throwing away spoiled groceries in the garbage from time to time — along with all my hard-earned savings. Once I figured out that the biggest culprit was inefficient meal planning, I began reducing food waste by mapping out each meal for the week and only buying ingredients I knew my family and I would consume. This meant cutting back on impulse buys and sticking to my shopping list. I also found it helpful to look for recipes that used overlapping ingredients, further limiting the different type of meat, produce and herbs I bought.
To get your food waste under control, check out The Fresh 20 meal planning tool which offers weekly meal plans using just 20 simple ingredients. For even more ideas, check out my tips for reducing food waste.
Kill Energy Vampires
Even with the best energy-conserving intentions, you might not realize how much electricity you’re wasting around your home. That’s because all the gadgets you have plugged in continue to suck energy even in the off mode. To combat this, I make it a point to unplug anything that isn’t being used. This includes mobile chargers, my computer and printer, TVs and small kitchen appliances.
Since this can get tedious, I plug everything into a power strip so I only have to turn off one switch rather than unplugging several devices. This also makes it easier to access those hard-to-reach cords located behind our entertainment system and in my home office.
More on Going Green: Energy-Saving Tips and Tricks That Will Save You a Bundle
Repurpose Household Items
Part of going green is becoming creative with the resources you already have at home and thinking about how you can repurpose items you no longer use. This eliminates the need to buy something new, which not only wastes resources but money too. For example, I use old mason jars that were previously filled with salad dressing as vases and storage containers, organizing crayons and paint brushes for my daughter’s art projects and to store various bathroom essentials like cotton swabs. What’s more, old towels can be turned into rags for cleaning while the inner liner of a cereal box can be used for sandwich bags instead of wasting money on ziplock bags.
While shopping as a hobby can bust your budget, there are things we all need to buy from time to time, and buying used is a great way to save money and to be green. Buying secondhand means fewer items end up discarded in landfills and it saves the raw materials needed to make an item brand new. Plus, it reduces energy use and pollution and saves on packaging.
While the last thing I want to do is spend time searching through poorly-organized shelves at a thrift shop, there are plenty of websites that make consignment shopping a breeze these days. For instance, websites like TheRealReal offer previously-owned designer garments from brands like Chanel and Tory Burch, while apps like Poshmark allow you to shop the closets of other fashion-minded consumers for huge savings. Beyond clothing, you can find gently-used toys, home goods and sporting equipment for less through Facebook Marketplace. I also take the time to post items I no longer need or use to boost my budget and recycle my unwanted goods.
Limit Paper Waste
Junk mail isn’t just a hassle to deal with and a waste of trees, I find that all those store circulars, credit card offers and promotional flyers tempt me to spend money I didn’t intend to in the first place. To reduce my paper trail and keep those temptations at bay, I signed up for the “no solicitation” registry in my area which greatly reduced the amount of offers I get in the mail. When it comes to finding sales at my favorite stores, I use apps like Flipp to compare deals from my phone when I actually need something. I also like accessing mobile coupons through apps like Target’s Cartwheel and Coupon Sherpa instead, as I typically forget the paper clippings at home.
Find More Savings: Money-Saving Apps That Do the Work For You
Send Electronic Greetings, Invites and Gifts
Digital gift cards, greetings and invites are super convenient, use less plastic resources, reduce fuel associated with shipping and save money. I typically send party invites through the Hobnob app which texts event details to guests to save on invite costs and postage. I also search for deals on discount e-gift cards through sites like Gift Card Granny, which offers up to 25 percent off popular retailers like Macy’s, Target and Starbucks.
Click to read more about one man’s tips for saving the planet — and your money.
More From Our Smart Money Squad